Still from Children of Shatila (1998)
In our quest for enlightenment, many of us resort to documentaries for information as it is arguably the most entertaining way to learn more about history. Unfortunately, Palestinian history over the past few decades has been typically told through non-Palestinian voices, leading to accounts that leave out far too much. To better understand Palestinian history, here are six documentaries that give a much more compassionate account of the Palestinian experience than we’re used to.
Born In Gaza (2014)
Following the life of 10 children, Born in Gaza sheds light on the horrors of living in Gaza after the war in the summer of 2014. The 2014 siege left 508 children dead and thousands wounded. The documentary examines the physical and psychological effects of growing up in a war zone on children, going beyond news coverage and giving a platform to kids to tell their stories.
A World Not Ours (2012)
Borrowed from a novel by the author and activist Ghassan Kanafani, A World Not Ours is an intimate portrait of three generations of exiles in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, using personal recordings and family archives. Mehdi Fleifel was born in the camp but moved to Dubai and Europe with his family. He often returned with his video camera to capture the stateless community, subsisting on dreams and memories of a lost homeland.
Children of Shatila (1998)
After the Sabra-Shatila massacre that took place in the Sabra neighbourhood and Shatila refugee camp in 1982, the “belt of misery” camp in Beirut became home to 15,000 Palestinian and Lebanese people who experienced displacement and poverty. Half a century after the forced exile of their grandparents from Palestine, the children of Shatila, having known no other life, attempt to understand the reality of being born refugees in a camp that survived massacre, siege, and starvation. In this documentary, director Mai Masri focuses on two Palestinian children in the camp: Farah, age 11, and Issa, age 12. When these children are given video cameras, the story of the camp evolves from their personal narratives as they articulate the feelings and hopes of their generation.
Gaza Fights For Freedom (2019)
Having been denied entry to Gaza on the accusation that she is a propagandist, journalist Abby Martin connects with journalists in Gaza to create a film through the blockaded border. The documentary tells the story of the historic Great March Of Return protests, which occurred every week from March 2018 until December 2019. The documentary shows archival footage that reveals the true history never acknowledged by mass media. It includes the testimonies of victims of the ongoing massacre, including journalists, medics and the family of internationally acclaimed paramedic Razan al-Najjar.
This is a beautiful portrait of everyday Gazan citizens leading meaningful lives beyond the rubble of perennial conflict. The 2019 documentary film was directed by Irish filmmakers Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Al Nakba (2008)
Referring to the Palestinian ‘Catastrophe’, Nakba is the word used to describe the destruction of the Palestinian homeland in 1948, leaving 700,000 Palestinians displaced and 15,000 killed. Detailing events stretching back to 1799, this four-part documentary gives a comprehensive history of the events leading to the brutal siege of Palestinian land and the declaration of Israeli statehood.